The success of 12-year-old Cain Lusk in taking a 6x7 bull elk is a notable achievement. The location and circumstances surrounding the event make it even more noteworthy.
Cain, who lives at Hector in Pope County, got to go on the elk hunt this year because of father Clint Lusk’s determination and generosity. Clint Lusk also had deep pockets.
He bid on and won the elk hunting permit in an auction at the annual awards banquet of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation. Proceeds from the auction go to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission for use in its elk program.
This auctioned permit was designated for a youth, someone under the age of 16. And it specified the hunting area was Bearcat Hollow, the first time this rugged area in the Ozark National Forest has been open to permit elk hunting.
Wayne Shewmake of Dardanelle is involved in this story from several angles. He is president of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, he has been a ramrod in the extensive Bearcat Hollow Cooperative Habitat Project and he accompanied Cain Lusk, his father, his grandfather and his grandmother on the hunt.
Shewmake tells the story of Cain and the bull elk:
"Clint, Cain, his grandpa Jimmy and grandmother Gullett all went up on Saturday before the opening day to do more scouting. I got up early Monday morning and drove up there to get out into the woods before daylight. We were all very excited, but I think Cain was the most excited. It was a beautiful morning — about 46 degrees, light wind, and clear skies, an ideal morning. We got to our location before daylight and heard two or more bull elk bugle, an elk’s way to call his cows to him.
"We started into a field and saw a bull and three cows, but we couldn’t tell how big the bull was. They all went into the woods, moving away from us. We set up in hopes they would return. During the interim we heard several bulls bugle all around us. After several hours of waiting we decided to look at other locations for signs of elk. We found some but decided to go back to the first location to see if they would come back that evening.
"We returned approximately 4 p.m. and set up about 10 yards apart, watching in two different directions simultaneously. As the evening wore on and it was getting close to sunset, we heard some bulls bugle once again off in the distance. More of them began to bugle and started to move a little closer to our location.
"Just after sundown a cow and calf came into view of Cain and his dad. I wasn’t aware of them because I was several feet away watching the other direction. About the same time I heard some loud noises coming from my direction and looked to my right. Four cows and a big 6x7 bull elk came into my view about 75 yards away. I picked up a small rock and tossed it in Cain’s direction, motioning for him to hurry over to me. I tried to do all of this without being noticed by the elk. Here comes Cain, almost running. I had to stop him from going too far, afraid the elk might see him.
"He lay down and put his gun across my leg for a rest and took aim. BANG! The big bull just stood there. I told him to reload and try again. He did and again, BANG! Again, the big bull just stood there while the cows were running all over the place not sure what was going on. I tried to calm him down and told him to reload, take a deep breath and pick a good spot. He did just that and BANG, down went the bull."
This elk season, 28 permits were issued for public land hunting. Twenty-five were drawn randomly at the Buffalo River Elk Festival in Jasper in June. The other three were given through auctions of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation and the Arkansas Wildlife Federation.
Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.